by Bobby Steel

Rather than re-tell the story of why we decided to base our core sound on the tone and timbre of vigorously played acoustic guitars, I thought I take it a step further.

I’ll give you three advantages to playing rock with acoustic guitar.

1. Your technique improves

Playing acoustic guitar, you’re basically naked. There’s no hiding behind a rack of effects. It’s just 1 to 2 millimeters of plastic and a phosphor bronze string. It’s all in the grip and the wrist action. But make no mistake, you will play cleaner or your will perish. Playing acoustic guitar will bring out every deficit, weakness, inconsistency and flaw that you have in your playing; I can promise you that. Just think of what a monster you’ll sound like on electric after conquering the acoustic monster.

2. You can play more complex colorful chords

One of the first things I noticed in focusing on the acoustic guitar was I could add more complex colorful extensions on my chords and have them come across clear as a bell. Distortion works great for power chords, but with more intricate chords, the distortion tends to make everything sound like a big muddy mush of tones. Acoustic guitar also lends itself to more intriguing voicings of chords. For a punk rocker that might not be significant, but for Elm Treason it’s VERY significant.

3. You blend beautifully with other instruments:

In Elm Treason we often use a variety of orchestral instruments in our songs. Acoustic guitar pairs deliciously well with strings, woodwind , brass and even some pitched percussion instruments. Andy and I have experimented with combining frequencies of acoustic guitar with various instruments. We’ve noticed that overtones shimmer and sparkle creating a rich sound. Sympathetic strings that aren’t even touched freely vibrate adding color to the sonic landscape. We’ve done extensive experimenting and discovered where specific frequencies reside in the grand mix. This enables us to double, accent, overlap and interlock voicings of chords, akin to orchestral scoring. In fact, studying orchestral scores of various composers has been a big influence on how I orchestrate guitars with other acoustic instruments for an Elm Treason recording. I would think that with distortion, or a thick synth sound (like a sawtooth wave), those frequencies would be swallowed up and would drown out the mix, sending the delicate balance off kilter. As a consequence, we musicians behave with the sensibility of painters and sculptors, as we craft our distinct sound.

E Pluribus Ulmus

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x